How Do You Get Cavities and How Do You Know You Have One?

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If you don’t know what a cavity is then you may have dug yourself into a hole, possibly several, but you’re not alone.

An Australian oral health report card has found that only half of all Australians brush their teeth twice a day and only half have had a dental check-up in the last 12 months.

It also found that 90% of Australian adults have experienced some form of tooth decay, which has been widely contributed from excessive consumption of sugary drinks, alcohol, and smoking.

What are cavities?

Cavities, also referred to as tooth decay, or dental caries, are tiny holes in the hard outer layer of your tooth called the enamel and are the result of tooth decay that has occurred over time.

How do you get cavities?

Cavities are caused by a number of factors, including food debris caught in or between your teeth, frequent snacking, and sugary drinks. When the bacteria within your mouth combines with sugar that is found in most foods, it produces a harmful acid. Combined with your saliva, it begins to form plaque which sticks to your teeth and the acid within the plaque begins to break down your enamel, creating cavities.

Plaque builds up in places such as:

  • Cracks, pits and grooves in teeth
  • In between teeth
  • Around fillings, particularly ones that are chipped or damaged.
  • Near the gum line

How do you know if you have a cavity?

There’s an old saying that goes “no pain, no problem”, if my teeth don’t hurt, they’re fine right? Unfortunately, this is not the case and by the time something starts to hurt, the bacteria has already started to break down the enamel.

Signs and symptoms of a cavity:

  • Toothaches
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot or cold
  • Visible dark spots or holes on a tooth
  • Brown, black or white staining on the surface of a tooth
  • Pain when you bite down
  • Bad breath
  • Cracked tooth

If you are currently experiencing any of these symptoms we recommend visiting your dentist as soon as possible.

How are cavities treated?

Depending on the extent of the cavity, most dentists will remove the decayed portion of your tooth using a drill and then fill it with either silver alloy, gold, porcelain, or composite resin.

You may know this process as getting a filling.

What happens when you ignore a cavity?

Cavities are a common occurrence and everyone gets them. They are also relatively cheap and easy to treat, that is when compared to what happens if you choose to ignore a cavity.

Choosing to ignore a cavity and tooth decay can have serious and lasting complications which can include:

  • Constant pain and tooth sensitivity can lead to nutritional issues because you may find it difficult to eat or chew.
  • Tooth abscess that is caused from a bacterial infection, which can lead to more serious, even life threatening issues.
  • Swelling around the tooth
  • Tooth loss
  • Expensive treatment such as root canals and dental implants.

How do I prevent getting cavities?

Thankfully, cavities are preventable, through good oral hygiene and a tooth-friendly diet. You should be brushing your teeth at least twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, you can even brush after every meal for good measure. We can’t stress this one enough, visit your dentist at least every 6 months for a professional clean and check-up. Your dentist will be able to spot tooth decay in its early stages and help prevent future problems, which can be quite costly.

Eat tooth-healthy foods such as apples, celery, milk, cheese, eggs, leafy greens, nuts and seeds. You want to avoid eating tooth damaging foods including sugary drinks, citrus fruit, lollies, chips, bread and pasta.

Drink as much tap water as you can. Most public water supplies have added fluoride, which helps reduce tooth decay significantly.

At Alpha Dental we know that oral health can be a teething nuisance. That’s why we have made it our mission to provide a long-term and sustainable solution for your oral health. We take the time to listen to your individual needs before we create a plan, ensuring all your requirements and concerns are addressed. We help make oral health easier so you can spend more time doing what you love and less time spent at the dentist.

Get in touch with Alpha Dental today.

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